“We’re more of a support group, not a terrorist group,” says 28-year-old Benjamin Nissim. He’s a formerly active member of the so-called incels — a misogynistic subculture of men who hate women because they won’t sleep with them.

It’s a loosely assembled online group that first made headlines in 2014 after accidental founder Elliot Rodger’s gruesome massacre of non-white men and sorority women in Isla Vista, California. To this day, on incel message boards, Rodger is hailed as a figure to emulate. To “go ER” (in incel speak) is to murder strangers who seem “normie.”

The word itself, incel, is short for Involuntary Celebate and is a group of like-minded virgin men who claim society, women in particular, have conspired to prevent the members from ever having intimate relationships. Their disturbing worldview is that the fault for their exclusion from physical connection isn’t their own shortcomings, but because of more socially skilled men and slutty women who don’t want them.

As recently as April 23 of this year, when a white Ryder van driven by 25-year-old Alek Minassian plowed into a crowd in Toronto killing eight women and two men and critically injuring sixteen others, the subculture has been making news for all the wrong reasons. But even past the killings and idolic worship, Nissim says violence really isn't in their nature.

“What [Minassian] did was pretty messed up but that’s not what we all advocate,” continues Nissim. “We just try to understand women and help each other understand women.”

Shortly before he committed mass murder on April 23, Minassian logged on to Facebook: “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161,” he posted. “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

For those who aren’t familiar with the movement, “Chads” is a derogatory term for sexually successful men and “Stacys” are conventionally attractive and sexually successful women. Like most subcultures, a jargon has developed over the years which seeks to separate the in-group from outsiders; in this case, it exists to identify and provide a level of comfort to an elaborate worldview in which incels are victims.

Nissim and those like him believe they’re subject to unimaginable oppressions by a laundry list of outside forces. They unite online not only to commiserate, but to vent a venomous anger that lives within each of them.

There are also elaborate categorizations of female attractiveness by ethnicity, and rants against “Tyrone” and “Chang” — black and Asian versions of “Chad,” respectively. In other words: They’re kind of fucked up.

“To someone who isn’t an incel, it seems like a dark and angry group, but it’s gotten a bad rap from people who’ve done bad things,” Nissim tries to explain. “But most of us vent online so that we don’t explode in real life. It’s a kind of therapy.”

And vent they do. A quick glance at one message board, permitted by Nissim, found the following posts:

“Female genocide now.”

“Whenever a fucking whore is referred to as a ‘sex worker,’ it really puts me in the mood to commit genocide.”

“They need to be locked up in basements for rape and reproduction purposes.”

One poster even uses Alek Minassian’s face as his avatar.

And while Nissim may vehemently object to it over the phone, it’s virtually impossible to separate the incel movement from a deep and poisonous hatred of women. “We don’t hate women, we just don’t understand them and we resent that they make it confusing on purpose,” Nissim protests.

Incels do offer solutions to quieting their venomous hatred, however. One manifesto, posted to r/badeconomics, lays out a few clear suggestions. Among the ideas are banning makeup — a means of feminine deceit — and suggesting a system of state-mandated “sexual-market value cards” measured on a one-to-ten scale.

The proposal concludes by stating: “Women with more than nine sexual partners and single moms should be forced by the state to date and have sex with incels that can’t get any women despite the above changes.”

Probably the most audacious component to this insanity is that incels, despite their endless protests of injustice, are some super picky virgins. In their petulant and inflamed imagination of the sex menu, they reject most of the dishes on offer. As one of them put it:

“Its [sic] like eating dirt to try to substitute the nutritional value of fruits vegetables and meat. Ugly women are the dirt and hot women are the good food. I will not subject myself to anything lower than what i [sic] deserve which is a hot female. All of you deserve a hot female. Just like all of you deserve good quality nutritional food.”

The notion of women as an interchangeable commodity, the irrelevance of women as people is palatable. “But this is not who we are in real life,” Nissim offers as the only defense he can muster. “This is all fantasy, it’s not real, it’s just how we support one another.”

Try explaining that to the dozens slaughtered in the past half decade because of the warped core beliefs of the incel subculture and the individuals who’ve associated so closely to those beliefs they’re driven to plow down innocent people with their cars.

Try explaining that to the countless unsuspecting women who are tormented online by the twisted group who descend on targets like a flock of wild ravens.

The same women who are bombarded with the term “roastie” (short for “roast beef,” derived from a physics-and-anatomy-illiterate understanding of female genitalia).

The one thing that Nissim will concede to is that the group shows no signs of slowing down. “Truthfully, whether it’s because people are fascinated by the darkness of it or because they need the support, the groups keep getting larger every year,” he admits.

When asked why he no longer considers himself an incel, Nissim mentions casually, “Pretty much it’s because I got laid.”

[cover photo: Alek Minassian at a recent court appearance // sketch by Pam Davies]